BBC pays £200,000 to 'COVER UP' report on ANTI-ISRAEL BIAS
[Daily Mail-TV Correspondent]
THE BBC is spending £200,000 [of
taxpayers' money] to prevent publication of a report on alleged bias in
its Middle East reporting.
It will fight a landmark High Court
action next week appealing against a ruling under the
FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT
-that the findings should be
last night it faced the twin accusation
that it was wasting licence payers money and that it was guilty of
-having used the
Freedom of Information
-legislation itself to break news
The Balen report was compiled in 2004
by BBC editorial advisor Malcolm Balen after allegations of
pro-Palestinian bias in BBC reporting.
London solicitor Steven Sugar, who is
Jewish, has been fighting ever since to have its findings made public.
The report is believed to run to 20,000
words and to be critical of the corporation's coverage in the region.
BBC bosses have faced repeated claims
that their reporting of the Arab-Israeli conflict has been skewed
towards the Palestine cause.
One particularly controversial incident
came when Middle East correspondent Barbara Plett revealed that she had
cried as Yasser Arafat was close to death in 2004.
But politicians say the corporation's
decision to pursue the case - appealing against a ruling by the
Freedom of Information adjudicator
-is 'absolutely indefensible' on an is
of clear public interest.
They say it also flies in the face of
the stated BBC policy of
OPENNESS and TRANSPARENCY
The Corporation has hired one of the
country's top public law barristers to fight the case, which has the
potential to run all the way to the
EUROPEAN COURT in STRASBOURG
It claims it is defending a principle,
that public broadcasters should not have to disclose material that is
held for purposes of
'Journalism, art or literature.'
-and that it should be allowed to
protect the integrity of its journalists.
But its determination to fight has only
served to intensify suspicions that Balen was damning in his assessment.
Conservative MP David Davis said:
'An organisation which is funded partly
to scrutinize governments and other institutions in Britain appears to
be using taxpayers' money to prevent its customers from finding out how
it is operating.
THAT IS INDEFENSIBLE.
'I think the BBC is guilty of shameful
hypocrisy. What could possibly be in the report that could be worth
£200,000 to bury?
'WHAT IS IT THEY FEEL IS SO AWFUL IN
The Corporation was accused of
anti-Israeli bias last year when it wrongly reported that a Lebanese
town had been wiped out. It received a string of complaints but stood by
the dispatch , arguing that anyone who had seen the pictures would have
found it hard to contest the scale of destruction.
In 2004 the Israeli Government wrote to
the BBC accusing its then Middle East correspondent Oria Guerin of anti-Semitism
and 'total identification with the goals and methods of the Palestinian
terror groups' in a report on a would -be suicide bomber.
She was moved from her role as Middle
East correspondent at the end of 2005
The Israeli Government also imposed a
boycott on the Corporation in 2003 following a documentary about the
country's weapons of mass destruction.
While the BBC did not publish the Balen
Report., it did last year make public the findings of an independent
panel report into report into the issue of impartiality on the
That report said that the BBC's
approach had at times been
-but that many viewers felt that if
there was any bias at all, it was pro-Israel.
Critics , however, claimed that the
independent panel report only took a snapshot of the BBC's activities
and should have looked more deeply at the reporting of the worst moments
of the conflict.
Mr Sugar said he was prepared to take
the case all the way to Europe.
'This is an important document which
will give us an insight into what the BBC thinks of its own performance,
I would like to see the BBC facing up
to its professed interest in
TRANSPARENCY and OPENNESS.'
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